King of molecular gastronomy, and godfather of Spanish contemporary cuisine, Ferran Adrià, started it all, with his liquid-nitrogen-frozen herbs, seafood-reduction Rice Krispies and exploding olive-oil droplets. His multi-Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant on the Costa Brava might now be gone, with plans underway to turn it into a cookery foundation and “centre for creativity”, but the influences of Spain’s best-known chef have shaken the restaurant scene, as his former employees, acolytes and disciples have gone on to make the country one of the most exciting places to eat in the world.
The style-city of Barcelona, not surprisingly, is at the forefront of this innovative form of cooking, with Carles Abellán ’s Comerç 24 typical of the breed, while the Roca brothers’ celebrated El Celler de Can Roca in Girona keeps Catalunya firmly in the vanguard of new-wave cuisine. However, it’s in the Basque Country that many of the hottest chefs are currently in action: Andoni Aduriz at Mugaritz, Errenteria, San Sebastián, father-and-daughter team Juan Mari and Elena Arzak at Arzak, San Sebastián, and Martín Berasategui at Restaurante Martín Berasategui, Lasarte-Oria, San Sebastián, are all cooking sensational food in restaurants that regularly feature in lists of the world’s best. Maybe it’s a northern thing, but there’s less fuss in the south of the country about the so-called cocina de autor; in the capital, perhaps only Sergi Arola cuts the new-wave mustard with his Sergi Arola Gastro in Madrid, while Dani García is making waves by the sea at Calima, Marbella.